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Washtenaw County launches mosquito and tick surveillance program

Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

ANN ARBOR – The Washtenaw County Health Department has announced it will participate in the Vector-Borne Disease Surveillance and Prevention Program this summer.

In collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Health Department will help communities track emerging diseases by providing tick and mosquito monitoring data.

According to a press release, "The main goal of the program is to identify mosquito species, such as Aedes aegypti or Aedes albopictus, which can transmit Zika and other viruses, and deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis), which can spread Lyme or other diseases."

Health Department staff will be installing mosquito traps across the county, including in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Saline, Chelsea, Dexter and Whitmore Lake. Staff will also be carrying out "tick drags" in numerous locations to identify which ticks are in the area.

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"We know that Lyme disease can be transmitted in Washtenaw County by infected black-legged ticks," Kristen Schweighoefer, the environmental health director for the Washtenaw County Health Department, said in a statement.

"Although the mosquitoes that transmit Zika virus have yet to be found here, it’s important to take a proactive approach to better protect and inform our residents. With our changing climate, it’s likely only a matter of time before these species of mosquitoes will be active in our area."

Other counties including Jackson, Livingston, Lenawee and Wayne, are contributing to the effort.

Seventeen residents in Washtenaw County were diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2018. Health experts assume seven of those cases stemmed from Lyme bacteria in the county.

While Zika has not been found in mosquitos in Washtenaw County, other mosquito-related illnesses exist and spread throughout the area, including the West Nile virus.

Below are precautions the Washtenaw County Health Department recommends to keep you and your family safe:

Mosquito bite prevention tips:

  • Use insect repellent to prevent mosquito bites. To find a repellant right for you, use the Environmental Protection Agency’s insect repellent search tool: bit.ly/EPArepellent. 
  • Wear long sleeves, shoes, and socks when outdoors.  
  • Repair screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
  • Reduce mosquito breeding conditions by eliminating standing water around your yard. Clean gutters, and empty flower pots, tires, barrels, and other items that can hold water. 

Tick bite prevention tips:

  • Use insect repellent with 20% or more DEET. 
  • Wear long sleeves, shoes, and socks when outdoors.  
  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter. 
  • Examine gear and pets for ticks.
  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors after outdoor activities. 
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held mirror. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in the hair.  
  • To remove a tick, use tweezers and grip the body firmly and pull straight out of the skin. Do not twist the tick. After removing the tick, clean the bite area and your hands. 

The MDHHS offers free tick identification and testing services. Submit a photo of a tick by emailing MDHHS-Bugs@michigan.gov.

Ticks found on humans can be submitted for free testing. Pick up a testing kit at the Washtenaw County Health Department locations at 705 N. Zeeb Road in Ann Arbor and 555 Towner Street in Ypsilanti, or follow instructions online here

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